List of submarine incidents since 2000
This article describes major accidents and incidents involving submarines since the year 2000.
- 1 2000
- 2 2001
- 3 2002
- 4 2003
- 5 2004
- 6 2005
- 7 2006
- 8 2007
- 9 2008
- 10 2009
- 11 2010
- 12 2011
- 13 2012
- 14 2013
- 15 2016
- 16 References
In August 2000, the Russian Oscar II class submarine (which was the world's largest class of cruise-missile submarine) Kursk sank in the Barents Sea when a leak of hydrogen peroxide in the forward torpedo room led to the detonation of a torpedo warhead, which in turn triggered the explosion of around half a dozen other warheads about two minutes later. This second explosion was equivalent to about 3-7 tons of TNT and was large enough to register on seismographs across Northern Europe. The explosion and the flooding by high pressure seawater killed the majority of the submarine's 118 sailors. Twenty-three survived in the stern of the submarine, but despite an international rescue effort, they died several days later either from a flash fire or suffocation due to a lack of oxygen. The Russian Navy was severely criticized in its home country by family members of the deceased crew for failure to accept international help in a timely manner.
Ehime Maru and USS Greeneville collision
On February 9, 2001, the American submarine USS Greeneville accidentally struck and sank a Japanese high-school fisheries training ship, Ehime-Maru, killing nine of the 35 Japanese aboard, including four students, 10 miles (16 km) off the coast of Oahu. The collision occurred while members of the public were on board the submarine observing an emergency surface drill.
A naval inquiry found that the accident was the result of poorly executed sonar sweeps, an ineffective periscope search by the submarine's captain, Commander Scott Waddle, bad communication among the crew and distractions caused by the presence of the 16 civilian guests aboard the submarine.
The Navy and the command of Greeneville have been criticized for making no immediate attempt to help the Japanese on Ehime Maru that survived the initial collision. Weather conditions that were producing 8- to 12-foot waves and the submarine's partially surfaced condition were cited as reasons for the submarine captain's choosing to stand off and remain close by. While the U.S. Coast Guard directly responded, survivors resorted to automatically deployed life rafts from Ehime Maru.
USS Dolphin major flooding and fire
In May 2002, the U.S. Navy research submarine USS Dolphin experienced severe flooding and fires off the coast of San Diego, California. The ship was abandoned by the crew and Navy civilian personnel, who were rescued by nearby naval vessels. No one was seriously injured. Although severely damaged, the boat was towed back to San Diego for overhaul.
USS Oklahoma City collision with tanker
On 13 November 2002, the USS Oklahoma City collided with the Leif Hoegh liquefied natural gas tanker Norman Lady, east of the Strait of Gibraltar. No one on either vessel was hurt, and there were no leaks of oil from fuel tanks and no threat to the environment, but the submarine sustained damage to her periscope and sail area, and put into La Maddalena, Sardinia, for repairs. Her commanding officer, Commander Richard Voter, was relieved of his command on 30 November. One other officer and two enlisted crew members also were disciplined for dereliction of duty.
In November 2002, the Royal Navy's Trafalgar-class submarine, HMS Trafalgar ran aground close to Skye, causing £5 million worth of damage to her hull and injuring three sailors. It was travelling 50 metres below the surface at more than 14 knots (26 km/h) when Lieutenant-Commander Tim Green, a student in The Perisher course for new submarine commanders, ordered a course change that took her onto the rocks at Fladda-chùain, a small but well-charted islet.
A report issued in May 2008, stated that tracing paper (used to protect navigational charts) had obscured vital data during a training exercise. Furthermore, the officer in charge of the training exercise had not been tracking the submarine's position using all the available equipment. Commanders Robert Fancy and Ian McGhie were court martialled and reprimanded over the incident.
HMAS Dechaineux flooding
On 12 February 2003, HMAS Dechaineux, a Collins-class submarine of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) was operating near her maximum safe diving depth off the coast of Western Australia when a seawater pipe burst. The high-pressure seawater flooded the lower engine room before the hose was sealed off. It was estimated that if the inflow had continued for another twenty seconds, the weight of the water would have prevented Dechaineux from returning to the surface. The Navy recalled all of the Collins-class submarines to the submarine base HMAS Stirling after this potentially catastrophic event, and after naval engineers were unable to find any flaws in the pipes that could have caused the burst, they commanded that the maximum safe depth of these submarines be reduced.
Ming 361 accident
In May 2003, China announced that the entire ship's crew (70 people) had been killed aboard Ming-class submarine 361 due to a mechanical malfunction. The accident took place off the coast of Liaoning province in northeast China. The vessel was recovered and towed to an unidentified port. The cause of the accident is not known, but it is believed that the crew suffocated due to malfunctioning diesel engines, which consumed all the oxygen present in the interior of the submarine.
In August 2003, the Russian November class submarine K-159 sank in the Barents Sea. This submarine had been decommissioned, and she was being towed away for scrapping. Of her skeleton crew of ten sailors, nine were killed.
USS Hartford grounding
On 25 October 2003, the American Los Angeles-class submarine USS Hartford ran aground in the harbor of La Maddalena, Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea. This grounding caused about nine million dollars worth of damage to Hartford.
Bugaled Breiz sinking
On 15 January 2004, the fishing trawler Bugaled Breizh sank with all hands for unknown reasons. One of the possible scenarios is that an unidentified submarine got caught in its net during a NATO exercise.
HMCS Chicoutimi fire
On 5 October 2004, the Canadian submarine HMCS Chicoutimi suffered from two fires after leaving Faslane harbor for Halifax harbor. One officer, Canadian Forces Lieutenant (Navy) Chris Saunders, died the following day while he was being flown via helicopter to a hospital in Ireland. Canadian Forces investigators concluded that poor insulation of some power cables caused the fires. The following board of enquiry found that the fire was caused by a series of events that caused electrical arcing at cable joints from seawater penetration at the joints.
USS San Francisco collision with undersea terrain
On January 8, 2005, the Los Angeles-class submarine USS San Francisco, while underway and submerged, collided with an undersea seamount about 350 miles (560 km) south of Guam in the Marianas Islands. One of her sailors, Machinist mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, of Akron, Ohio, died from the injuries he suffered in the collision. This happened while San Francisco was on a high-speed voyage to visit Brisbane, Australia.
About 60 more of her sailors were also injured in this accident, some with broken bones. The collision with the seamount was so severe that San Francisco was nearly sunk. Accounts from the scene related a desperate struggle for positive buoyancy after her forward ballast tanks had been ruptured. Several news web sites stated that the boat had hit an "uncharted sea mount" at a high speed. The captain of the submarine, Commander Kevin Mooney, was later relieved of his command after an investigation revealed that he had been using inadequate methods of ocean voyage planning.
San Francisco underwent a rapid deceleration from more than 25 knots (46 km/h) to a standstill, causing a section of her bow to collapse (including her sonar system) and everything not tied down to fly forward in the boat. San Francisco returned to her base at Guam, where emergency repairs were carried out. Next, she steamed to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for more permanent repairs. The bow section of San Francisco has been replaced with that of her sister ship, USS Honolulu, which had already been removed from service because of years of wear and tear. This replacement of the bow of San Francisco has been successful, and she has returned to active service in the Pacific Fleet, based at San Diego.
On 5 August 2005, the Russian Priz-class deep-submergence rescue vehicle AS-28, while operating off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, became entangled in a fishing net, or possibly by cables belonging to an underwater antenna assembly, at a depth of 190 meters (600 ft). Unable to free itself, the submarine was stuck with a depleting airsupply.
After a multi-national effort, a Royal Navy team using a Scorpio ROV was able to free the submarine from the entanglement, allowing it to return to the surface. All seven crew members were rescued safely.
USS Philadelphia collision with MV Yasa Aysen
On 5 September 2005, the USS Philadelphia was in the Persian Gulf about 30 nautical miles (60 km) northeast of Bahrain when she collided with the Turkish merchant ship MV Yasa Aysen. No injuries were reported on either vessel. The damage to the submarine was described as "superficial." The Turkish ship suffered minor damage to its hull just above her waterline, but the United States Coast Guard inspected the ship and found her to be still seaworthy. The commanding officer of Philadelphia, Commander Steven M. Oxholm, was relieved of his command following this collision.
Daniil Moskovsky fire
On September 6, 2006 the Russian Victor-3 class submarine Daniil Moskovsky suffered a fire which resulted in the deaths of two crewmen (a warrant officer and a sailor). At the time of the incident the submarine was anchored off the Rybachiy peninsula, on Russia's north coast near the border with Norway. The fire was extinguished with no damage to the reactor (which had been scrammed as a precaution) and the submarine was towed to a base at Vidyayevo. The incident was reported as being caused by an electrical fire in the vessel's wiring.
The USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul incident
Four crew members were washed overboard from the USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul by heavy waves on 29 December 2006 in Plymouth Sound, England. This resulted in the deaths of Senior Chief Thomas Higgins (chief of the boat) and Sonar Technician 2nd Class Michael Holtz. After the preliminary investigation, Commander Edwin Ruff received a punitive letter of reprimand, stating that the accident was avoidable, and he was reassigned to a shore-based post in Norfolk, Virginia.
USS Newport News collision with Japanese tanker Mogamigawa
On January 8, 2007, USS Newport News was transiting submerged in the Straits of Hormuz when it hit the Japanese tanker Mogamigawa. It had been operating as part of Carrier Strike Group 8 (CSG-8), organized around the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and dispatched to the Indian Ocean to help support operations in Somalia.
On March 21, 2007 two crew members of the Royal Navy's Trafalgar-class submarine, HMS Tireless were killed in an explosion caused by air-purification equipment in the forward section of the submarine. The submarine was in service in the Arctic Ocean and had to make an emergency surface through the pack ice. A third crewmember who suffered "non life-threatening" injuries was airlifted to a military hospital at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska. According to the Royal Navy, the accident did not affect the ship's nuclear reactor, and the ship sustained only superficial damage.
On 26 May 2008, the Royal Navy's Swiftsure-class submarine, HMS Superb hit an underwater rock pinnacle in the northern Red Sea, 80 miles (130 km) south of Suez, causing damage to sonar equipment.
Russian K-152 Nerpa gas leak
On 8 November 2008, at least 20 men died of asphyxiation from a gas leak on board the Russian nuclear submarine K-152 Nerpa, during trials in the Sea of Japan. The submarine was leased to the Indian Navy in 2011 and was formally commissioned into service as INS Chakra in 2012.
HMS Vanguard and Triomphant collision
The nuclear submarines, the Royal Navy's HMS Vanguard and the French Navy's Triomphant, were involved in a collision in February 2009. They were operating in the Atlantic Ocean at the time. No injuries or radiation leaks were reported.
USS Hartford and USS New Orleans collision
INS Sindhurakshak fire
INS Shankush incident
On 30 August 2010, INS Shankush, a Type 209 class submarine of the Indian Navy developed a technical snag while on a planned exercise off Mumbai. While effecting repairs, the submarine's maintenance team was washed overboard due to rough sea state. A team of five officers and sailors, led by the submarine's Executive Officer (XO) Lt Cdr Firdaus D Moghal successfully recovered all members of the crew. However the officer himself was washed overboard subsequently in rough sea conditions and sustained heavy injuries on his forehead. He was rescued by a helicopter dispatched from Naval Air Station INS Shikra but succumbed to his injuries en route to shore.
HMS Astute grounding
HMCS Corner Brook grounding
HMCS Corner Brook (ex-HMS Ursula) ran aground in Nootka Sound off the coast of Vancouver Island on June 4, 2011, while conducting SOCT. Minor injuries were sustained by two crew members and the submarine returned to CFB Esquimalt after the incident without escort or further incident. A board of inquiry into the incident deemed commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Paul Sutherland, had responsibility for safe navigation of the submarine and was relieved of his command.
USS Miami arson
On 23 May 2012, during a scheduled maintenance overhaul, USS Miami suffered extensive damage from a fire, which was later determined to have been started deliberately by a civilian shipyard worker. The Navy determined it would be uneconomical to repair the submarine and decided to decommission and scrap her instead.
USS Montpelier collision with USS San Jacinto
USS Montpelier and the Aegis cruiser USS San Jacinto collided off the coast of north-eastern Florida on 13 October 2012 during an exercise while the submarine was submerged at periscope depth. There were no injuries aboard either ship. The initial assessment of damage was that there was a complete de-pressurization of the sonar dome aboard San Jacinto. The investigation revealed that the principal cause of the collision was human error, poor teamwork by Montpelier watch team, and the commanding officer's failure to follow established procedures for submarines operating at periscope depth. Additionally, the investigation revealed contributing factors threaded among the various command and control headquarters that provide training and operational oversight within Fleet Forces Command. 
INS Sindhurakshak explosion and sinking
On 14 August 2013, the Indian Navy's INS Sindhurakshak Kilo-class Type 877EKM submarine sank after explosions caused by a fire took place on board when the submarine was berthed at Mumbai. The fire, followed by a series of ordinance blasts on the armed submarine, occurred shortly after midnight. The fire was put out within two hours. Due to damage from the explosions, the submarine sank at its berth with only a portion visible above the water surface. Sailors on board reportedly jumped off to safety.The vessel was salvaged later and bodies of 18 dead personnel were recovered.
Due to the explosion, the front section of the submarine was twisted, bent and crumpled, and water had entered the forward compartment. Another submarine, INS Sindhuratna, also sustained minor damage when the fire on Sindhurakshak caused its torpedoes to explode. An enquiry into the incident found the cause of the incident to be violation of Standard Operating Procedures during torpedo loading. This resulted in the explosion of two torpedoes during the incident while the remaining 14 torpedoes disintegrated.
Official sources said it was "highly unlikely" the submarine could be returned to service.
Russian K-150 Tomsk fire
On 16 September 2013, fifteen seamen were hospitalized after a fire on the Oscar-class submarine. The fire started during welding activity, as the sub was being repaired at the Zvezda shipyard near Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan. The fire was put out after five hours. A federal Investigative Committee said the fire had "caused damage to the health of 15 servicemen" and they remained in hospital. It gave no details about their condition.
USS Jacksonville Mishap
On January 10, 2013 the USS Jacksonville struck an unidentified vessel in the Persian Gulf and lost one of its periscopes. The ship's commanding and executive officers were relieved for cause following the incident.
HMS Ambush collision
On 20 July 2016, while surfacing on an exercise in the Strait of Gibraltar, Ambush collided with a merchant ship,[clarification needed] sustaining significant damage to the top of her conning tower. It was reported that no crew members were injured during the collision and that the submarine's nuclear reactor section remained completely undamaged.
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